Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Keeping schools safe.

Once again, innocent people have been killed, and national attention is being brought to the issue. I've listened enough and watched enough video, that I feel the need to clarify some things.

The two large themes that have been brought up are: a. There needs to be a real conversation about mental illness. b. Gun control in general.

Mental illness is stigmatized in this country. Its nuances are very tricky, and the different types of illness are wide-ranging. Some illnesses are harmless to others, and have simple solutions. Some cause unpredictable, frightfully violent behavior.

One of the problems that is brought up in the debate about a mental health solution to public mass shootings, is that the mental health community would be required to readily provide medical records to the police. If someone who is depressed or has a legitimate problem is considering getting help, they will be less likely to go visit a psychiatrist if they think that it will result in a SWAT raid in the middle of the night.

The number of people who seek help will drop dramatically, and many legitimate problems will go untreated.

Now, that may not actually ever happen, but the possibility will definitely loom in the mind of a person suffering enormous stress. I know of one case where a Military Police officer was punished after seeking psychological help. Andy Brown was an MP at Fairchild Air Force Base when an unstable person entered the base hospital and started shooting people. Brown killed the man in the parking lot outside the hospital. After the shooting, Andy started having some psychological problems, which were normal reactions to such an event.

The day after he visited the psychiatrist, his duty weapon was taken away, and he was assigned to a desk job. He didn't visit the shrink again after that, though he continued to have problems.

For a full review of the incident, go here.

In addition, the mental health debate has been going on ever since Charles Whitman's shooting in Austin. There is an urge to try to understand these senseless acts, and a lot has been learned about the various shooters, and any warning signs or patterns that have been observed. However, many atrocities have been committed since the debate started, and so the mental health method of preventing mass shootings has not been perfected yet.

There are steps that can be taken right now that would make schools safer, I'll get to that in a bit.

The other topic that is being thrown around right now is gun control. Since the public can tell that mental illness is an extremely complex topic, the logically easier solution would be to pass some more gun laws. They can be passed, and take effect as early as next summer, after all.

I'll do another post about some of problems with passing more gun control laws, but right now I will just mention that AR-15 rifles have been the best selling rifles in America for the past few years, concealed carry is at an all-time high, and so any efforts to create more laws are going to have a much stronger resistance than in the 90's.

So keeping in mind that an acceptable mental health solution isn't perfected yet, and the new gun control laws aren't likely to pass, how can we make our schools safer?

In every state, there is a law that says it is illegal to have a gun on school property. There is included a list of people who are exempt from that law, typically police officers on duty, active duty military, federal law enforcement officers, etc. . .

To make our schools safer, go to that law and add "Any person with a valid concealed weapon permit".

That's it.

It would cost the state nothing, it would cost the schools nothing, because the cost of getting a permit is incurred by the individuals seeking the permit.

Now, every teacher isn't going to jump on this program, but a few will.

There arguments against this. "There are some teachers I wouldn't trust with a yardstick." "Teachers aren't trained with guns, a gun would just get taken away from them." "If teachers just start blasting away, then they will hit more people than the bad guy"

Remember, this proposal isn't for the government to hand out guns to every teacher, it is to allow anyone who wishes to get a permit, to legally have their weapon with them at school. These people would have virtually no criminal history and would have passed any state mandated training. Concealed weapon permits get revoked at a rate of less than 1%, and CCW permit holders pass through life in public every single day without problems.

But why can't we just rely on police to protect the kids?

If there were a police officer in every school, every day, it would have a deterrent effect and the officers would be able to stop a massacre. However, the police don't work for free.

Everyone of those officers cost $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 dollars per year. Would the district pay the cost, or the police department? It's not likely that we would be able to find the money to double or triple the police force in some areas, especially since some jurisdictions have cut back the police budget.

So the reality is that police will respond as fast as they can, as soon as a 911 operator is notified. But is one, two, or three minutes fast enough?

Let's look at some video of people getting attacked, and notice how quickly the situation unfolded.

Here is a shop owner in Turkey, if you don't want to hear the commentary then mute your computer.

Warning: People get stabbed, and the stabber gets shot. Footage starts at 30 seconds.

How could any honest person tell this shop owner that the only action he should have taken was to call the police.

Let's look at this video of a woman whose shop is about to get attacked by an armed robber.

Did this woman have time to call for police, and wait for them to arrive? If she had no weapon, who knows what that man would have done once he got inside the store?

Here is a home invasion in Arizona. 

What would have happened if he had to wait for police?

Allowing teachers to be armed, if they wish to be, is an issue of practicality.

 Allowing teachers to be armed, and then publicizing the policy change, may be the one thing that actually prevents future shootings. A killer looking to grab headlines by shooting many people, will not target a school if he knows he won't get very far. They want to kill, not get into a gun battle.

The debate will continue to rage, politicians and pundits will argue on television, mental health may get discussed, gun control laws will be proposed and fail, but in the meantime, let's take a step that will actually keep our children safe at school.

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